Jathedhar Balbir Singh (Fiji)
August 16, 1934 – April 24, 2014
Jathedhar Balbir Singh was born on August 16, 1934 at Lovu, Lautoka, Fiji. He completed his primary education at Lovu Sangam School and his Punjabi language to Granthi level at LTK Sikh Temple under the guidance of Bhai Harnam Singh. Balbir Singh later served as a part-time Granthi, or religious teacher, at LTK, and volunteered across Fiji.
As a young Sikh scholar he was popular with youth who looked up to him. As the eldest of his family, he was much loved by his sisters and brothers.
At the age of 20, he left for India in March 1955, reaching Punjab in April 1955. After a year or so, he left his village over unknown circumstances. His family lost touch with him for several decades.
By sheer luck, in 2007, after many years of unfruitful searches, a Mr. Hundal helped the family find Balbir Singh. He was living in Hoshiarpur, Punjab, and his family was delighted and overjoyed to catch up with their lost brother. Balbir Singh was a very humble and down to earth man. Over those years, he had adopted a poor family, but was never married.
Beneath the humble exterior was the life of a firebrand activist.
The family came to know of his colourful history. In 1956, after leaving his village, he joined the Akali Dal Party and fought for human rights for the Punjab state.
His protests landed him in jail for two months. In 1960, he was again jailed for five month for a human rights protest. The stories of his fight for equality included hunger strikes and protest marches, before he became the chief auditor of Punjab Bank of India in 1967. But his battles did not end there. In 1975, during the Emergency Period, he served 8 months in jail in Amritsar and Patiala. In August 1982, he again fought for the leadership battle with Prakash Singh Badal, serving 3 months in jail in Ludhiana. Two years later, in 1984, he fought for the independence of the Golden Temple, and was again jailed in Ferozpur for a short period.
His role in religious politics began in 1980, when Balbir Singh stood for the election as a member of SGPC. He won with a landslide victory in his district of Hoshiarpur, earning him the title of Jathedaar SGPC. In 2001, he was presented the highest award for Human Rights Services by SGPC, and was presented a Gold Plated 3 Foot Kirpan by the Chief Minister of Punjab, Prakash Singh Badal. He maintained this position as Jathedhar until his death on April 24, 2014. He was 80 years old.
Jathedhar Balbir Singh’s family lives in Canada, the USA, Australia and Fiji. He is survived by his two sisters and three brothers, and will be deeply missed and remembered by his beloved families and friends all over the world.